Next month, Utah voters are going to be asked to tax themselves 0.25% to be earmarked for transportation projects. A portion of the new money would go towards roads while other funds will go towards transit and active transportation components like bike infrastructure. Utah is somewhat unique in that the state has openly advocated on behalf of a transit plan that gives active transportation an equal piece of the action.
I cautiously support this initiative, as does one of the state’s two leading newspapers. Unfortunately, many Utahns are opposed…not because they don’t think the funding is necessary, but rather because they feel that the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), the region’s largest transit provider, has spent previously earmarked funds recklessly. While reading this morning’s Salt Lake Tribune editorial in favor of the tax, I couldn’t help but notice the comments. They weren’t acerbic as is so often the case these days, but rather well thought out justifications for “no” votes. The editorial itself acknowledges that they have merit.
Public officials need to take note. Most people are intelligent enough to understand these issues and vote in ways that make sense to them personally. It would appear that most people, even those who feel they are already taxed too highly, are also willing to vote for projects they might not completely agree with if they feel that those projects serve a greater public good. What most people will not do, however, is vote to allow bureaucrats to rob them blind while living high on the proverbial hog. There appears to be a widespread belief in Utah, rightly or otherwise, that this is how UTA operates.
Utah has a chance to be visionary here, particularly with regard to active transportation, and so I support the initiative. I’d like others to support it, too, and so I advance the case as to why I think it makes sense. That said, I don’t tell other people what they should believe, especially when those people have arrived at their beliefs via a thoughtful process. That appears to the be case here. If so, and if this initiative goes down to defeat as a result, then UTA only has itself to blame.